The murder rate in Oakland continues to soar, and all too often, witnesses refuse to come forward to help solve the crimes. So a group of grieving mothers is pleading for the community to get involved. They lost their children to gun violence and the killers have never been caught.
ABC7 met with mothers who all lost their sons to gun violence in Oakland. The cases have not been solved. They spoke with us about the critical need for witnesses to come forward.
"I found out about my son's death by watching the news, but I only saw it that one night. I never saw it again," says Alfreda Bracksher.
"When something like this happens, a lot of people know about it. You just don't have anyone willing to come forward," says Bracksher. "Because they afraid."
Bracksher's 31-year-old son, Terrance Clewies, and his girlfriend were shot and killed this year while sitting in a car. Clewies worked at a halfway house helping addicts.
Laquita Johnson's 24-year-old son, Timothy Barnes, was gunned down at a party this year. He was the father of a little girl.
Lorrain Taylor lost two of her sons at the same time, 11 years ago. Twins Albade and Obadiah were gunned down while trying to get a stalled car started. Albade worked at UPS and attended Meritt College. Obadiah was a barber. Their murders prompted Taylor to send her remaining son, Gregory, to school out of state.
"It's outrageous," says Johnson. "We gotta do something with these young kids."
These mothers are begging witnesses to come forward about the murders.
"You can just write an anonymous letter, address it to the police department, don't put a return address on it and mail it," says Bracksher.
Or, there's a tip line to report anonymously: 510-238-3821, or email the Oakland Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, support for grieving families is free, thanks to Taylor. She formed a group called "1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence."
"Most of us, after going through PTSD and a kind of aggravated pain, can't work," says Taylor.
I joined Taylor on a Mother's Day march this year with other grieving mothers. She told me about some of the ways her support group helps others.
"We go to court with our families," says Taylor. "They meet with the district attorney to find out what is going on with the case."
She's moved out of a dark depression into a bright, energetic support system for mothers like Johnson and Bracksher.
"People aren't always comfortable with you talking about your loss, if they haven't experienced it, and so the support group is perfect for that," says Bracksher.
In spite of the loss of their own sons, these mothers are reaching out to the gang members -- the sons and daughters of other parents.
"If you really need to be part of a gang, join us, come work with the mothers, come work with 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence," says Taylor. "We will give you something to do, we can love on you and we can be your friend."
Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts plans to meet with the support group every month, and a police investigator tries to meet with them once a month as well.